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Physician Assistants Are Now at the Forefront of Medical Care

The healthcare industry has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent decades, driven by technological advancements, shifting demographics and the ever-growing need for affordable services. As a consequence, the role of physician assistants (PA) has evolved from support staff to primary deliverers of patient care.

Arising in the 1960s in response to physician shortages in certain areas, physician assistants gradually took on expanded responsibilities as their training and expertise deepened. Today, they boast rigorous master’s degrees and comprehensive clinical training, enabling them to carry on a wide range of activities such as:

  1. Conducting patient exams, assessing medical conditions and gathering relevant information to assist in diagnosis
  2. Diagnosing illnesses, ordering tests and interpreting results
  3. Making rounds to check on patients, monitor their progress and address concerns
  4. Performing minor procedures and assisting doctors during surgeries
  5. Prescribing medications based on assessments of patients’ conditions
  6. Creating and managing patient treatment plans for chronic illnesses
  7. Offering advice to patients on preventive measures and promotion of overall health practices

While PAs have taken on heightened responsibility, collaboration with physicians remains essential. The nature of this collaboration has evolved from hierarchical supervision to more independent judgment. This shift underscores the growing recognition of PAs’ expertise and their ability to independently manage a wide range of patient cases.

The enhanced role of the PA has had a significant impact on healthcare law compliance. Medical service providers must adapt their compliance measures to acknowledge the expanded responsibilities and scope of practice of PAs. This includes the following aspects:

  • Training and supervision — Ensuring PAs receive ongoing training and supervision commensurate with their expanding responsibilities is critical. Documentation of training and adherence to established protocols becomes even more important.
  • Licensing and credentialing — Staying up-to-date on state-specific PA licensing requirements and ensuring proper credentialing are essential aspects of compliance.
  • Scope of practice — Medical service providers must have a clear understanding of their PAs’ specific scope of practice within their state and ensure all activities fall within those boundaries.
  • Informed consent — Obtaining informed consent from patients regarding the involvement of a PA in their care becomes increasingly important as the PA’s role becomes more prominent.
  • Documentation and recordkeeping — Comprehensive and accurate documentation of all patient encounters, including those involving PAs, is vital for ensuring compliance with medical recordkeeping regulations.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, the PA’s role will likely be at the forefront in delivering efficient, accessible and patient-centered care. By recognizing the expanding responsibilities of PAs and embracing collaborative practices, medical service providers can ensure they are compliant with all regulations while also harnessing the full potential of this valuable resource for the benefit of their patients.

The Law Offices of Donald W. Hudspeth, P.C. in Phoenix takes an authoritative, practical approach to advising businesses that provide medical care in Arizona. To schedule a consultation, call our office at 866-696-2033 or contact us online.

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Donald W. Hudspeth
Principal Attorney

Attorney Donald W. Hudspeth has more than twenty years’ experience practicing corporate and business law. Before attending law school, Mr. Hudspeth held a stock brokers license at the age of 21 and owned his own business at the age of 23. He was a business law professor at Arizona State University, West Campus, and has conducted classes and seminars for a number of higher institutions and organizations. Mr. Hudspeth has published two books on law and is the founder of the radio programs Law on the Edge and Law Talk.

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Mark S. Hamilton

About Attorney Mark S. Hamilton has experience handling all aspects of civil and commercial litigation in federal, state, and tribal courts at the trial and appellate levels. Practice Areas Business litigation Commercial litigation Education University Of Hawaii Wm. S. Richardson School Of Law, Juris Doctor - 2002 University Of Hawaii, Master Of Arts in Asian…

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